Germantown — For the first time in more than 30 years, the Germantown Fire Department has a new fire chief. After several months of weeding through more than 40 applicants for the role, Chief Gary Weiss was sworn in to the position May 7, and starts effective Thursday, May 15.
"Gary will be an excellent addition to our fire department," said Village Administrator David Schornack. "There were a lot of good candidates, but we felt Gary would be the best fit for Germantown. He'll fit right in."
After almost 30 years of service to a number of communities and organizations in Florida, Weiss said involvement and service are at the core of his system.
"I'm excited and honored not only to be selected as fire chief, but to get involved in the community," said Weiss, who succeeds the village's first-ever chief, Gary Pollpeter. Pollpeter retired in December 2013 after more than 40 years of service to Germantown. In the meantime Deputy Chief Mike Maury has served as interim chief.
"I will tell you Chief Maury has done a great job," said Weiss, 54. "The firefighters and officers seem highly motivated and professional and I am honored to be a part of the organization."
Returning to role
Weiss is returning to the role of chief after almost eight years in a private sector role as an emergency services manager for American Compliance Technologies in Florida. But it's not the first time Weiss has taken a leadership role in a department, after serving as the deputy fire chief of the South Walton Fire District as well as the fire chief of Mulberry, also in Florida.
The New York City native began his career in emergency service shortly after his family moved to Florida when he became one of the youngest paramedics in the state at the age of 16. Since then, he has run the gamut in the field, serving as a firefighter, paramedic, engineer and company officer of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.
He earned an associate degree in fire science from Palm Beach Community College, as well as master's degree in occupational safety and health from Columbia Southern University. More recently, in 2001, he graduated from the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP), became a Florida Certified Emergency Manager, as well as obtaining the Chief Fire Officer Designation (CFOD) from the Center for Public Safety Excellence. He is also a governor's appointee to Florida's State Emergency Response Commission for Hazardous Materials.
Time for a change
When asked why he would want to leave bright, sunny Florida for the seasonal changes of Wisconsin, he said it was just time.
"I've lived there since I was 15," he said. "It's flat and boring. I can't wait to explore everything Wisconsin has to offer."
Weiss is in the process of purchasing a home in Germantown, which he feels is a very important part of serving the community.
"I strongly feel a fire chief needs to live where he works," he said, adding that "you cannot lead a fire department from behind a desk."
In his free time, he plans on getting involved with the local chapters of the Kiwanis Club and Knights of Columbus, as well as golfing as time allows. His wife, Barbara, and his 22-year-old stepdaughter will remain in Florida for at least another year, as Barbara teaches at a school where students she's worked with throughout their grade school career are set to graduate in 2015.
"It won't be easy, but at least we'll ramp up those frequent flier miles," Weiss said.
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